Foundations of Emergency Management The Disasters Facing The World

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[PRESENTER] It’s been a very active couple of months. There’s been probably four major hurricanes in that time. There’s been a very, very severe wildfire season in the West.

[WOMAN] I’m literally driving through a fire at the moment.

[PRESENTER] Then, on top of it, we’ve had a couple of very strong earthquakes in Mexico. Some of this is normal, but some of it may also be a harbinger of things to come. Science can explain all of these things. Earthquakes, the frequency of earthquakes is remarkably consistent, year to year. A 7.8, roughly, earthquake, and also an 8.0 earthquake within two weeks of each other is not unusual at all. The fact that they both happened in Mexico is a little unusual, but lots of quakes happen in Mexico.

The thing about earthquakes is that most of the big earthquakes, actually, in the world, happens in places where there’s not a lot of people, so they don’t really get noticed. Earthquakes aside, it’s tricky. Some of what’s been happening is related to climate change. Some of it isn’t. So wildfires are an interesting question because there’s some element of normality and nature involved, but there’s a lot of human influence here. It’s been very dry, climate-change related. And also, there are certain insect infestation that are now worse because of climate change, that can kill trees. And that’s fuel for fires. Couple that with human influences, more and more people are living in areas that are close to the forest. The human desire to live close to nature sort of plays into the whole, “What’s going on here?” feeling. Whereas, you know, 20 years ago, a wildfire might have happened somewhere in the Rocky’s, and nobody lived there, so nobody really cared. Now, the same wildfire might happen in the same location, and there’s vacation homes there. And so, people take notice.

[TODD DEVOE] Hi, and welcome to EM Student, and this is your host, Todd DeVoe, speaking. And today, we are exploring the principle hazards facing the United States, or maybe we should say the whole entire world. But we’re going to really focus on North America. First, let’s look at the overview of what major disasters have faced the world over the last few years. Some are human-caused, some are natural, some are technological. The big ones that come to mind quickly are the events of 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, Japanese earthquake and tsunami, and the Fukushima meltdown. The BP oil spill, the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, and of course, the Haiti earthquake. Those are some of the big ones that come to mind. We had also the Mexico City earthquake last year as well.

However, with the change in climate, we’re seeing an increase in flooding and drought and increased storms around the world. So, these events might even get bigger. Today, the emergency manager needs to be prepared for and planning for domestic and international terrorism. September 11th taught us that the United States are not outside the reach of international terrorists, and the United States has seen attacks in domestic terrorism over the years, and obviously, Europe is really being hit with the international terrorism right now.

So, with domestic terrorism in the United States, it’s always been a concern, actually, since the foundation of the nation, there’s been incidents of domestic terrorism. And this is increasing, and all over the world, we’re seeing it as well, including Africa as well, with a lot of the terrorism that’s hitting over there. We also have a civil unrest across the world, and in the United States, particularly, we’ve seen the increase in civil unrest. And also, the police department has been putting kind of a middleman, because there are two different sides that are going at it and there’s been a few protests here lately where each side started battling. It’s kind of crazy to see it, the videos are out there. Just recently, in Portland there was a really big one where ANTIFA was going after a politically right protest that was happening.

And as I record this show, the Southwest is suffering from a heatwave. And yesterday, I was at Home Depot, and just getting– I broke my sprinkler head, right? So I was going in there to get some pieces to repair my sprinkler, and there had been at least 40 people. No less than, in line, buying the portable air conditioners. So much so that a forklift came, full of them, to put them down. And by the time the guy parked over to the front of the store after I got my parts, they were all gone. So it was amazing to see that people just aren’t prepared for the heat, and we know this was coming. And it’s just not just seen in the Southwest of the United States, it’s also in Canada, and they’re getting hit as well. And as of this morning, there are 54 deaths reported. This morning would be Saturday, July 7th. There were 54 deaths that were contributed to heat in Quebec.

So, you know, as we see this going, obviously, climate change is going to have a really big impact on how we prepare for and get people prepared for disasters. Just like a slow-moving event. What I mean by slow-moving event, say, a snowstorm, we know it’s coming, we need to get the word out to prepare for having food and water and provisions for a snowstorm that could last, where you could be snowed in for a week or two. We need to start preparing people for heat events like this that are going to last into the weeks, where they’re not going to run down to Home Depot at 9 o’clock at night to go pick up an air conditioner. They’re prepared for this, they have plenty of water, they have the ability to survive.

And have them also– talking about checking out their neighbors and their pets and things like this, (unintelligible 00:06:12.28) the neighbors, that might not have the same resources. This is the type of stuff that we need to, as emergency managers, really get out and help people prepare for this type of event. And I think as we grow, as a field, as emergency management, these are things that we should be able to get in front of early on and not wait to just respond to as an event that occurs with heat warnings and stuff like these. We need to be able to be better at leaning forward with the response to this type of event.

As EM’s, not only do we have to be ready for such events that we were just talking about, we need to really lean forward on other things as well. As emergency managers, not only do we need to be ready for the events that we just discussed, we need to be leaning forward and really just do some good analysis of what hazards are out there, facing in your area, specifically. This series that we’re going to be starting here is going to break down each disaster or each threat, and what those threats really are and how we can prepare for those threats. And I know that we go into an all-hazards approach, that’s the proper way of doing things, I think. But I think that if we take a look at each hazard or each threat that’s out there and understand this threat, making an all-hazards plan is a little bit easier.

So that’s what we’re going to be doing next in the foundations of emergency management, I hope that you guys are having a nice summer so far, and I appreciate your time, and I will see you next week as we get deeper into some of the threats that are facing emergency management.

[PRESENTER] In terms of hurricanes, generally speaking, the months of August, September, and October are the busy, active part of the season. Some years, you don’t get many hurricanes at all. It’s a naturally variable situation. It is probably a little unusual that several of them have been really monster hurricanes, and also have made landfall. You want a big database of things to study, and with hurricanes, you know, with 12 or 15 storms every year, that’s not a huge number that you’re working with. But some scientists say that the (unintelligible 00:08:24.01) we’ve had is more likely to repeat itself in the years ahead.

Scientists are pretty confident that climate change will make hurricanes worse for two reasons. One is, warmer air holds more moisture. The other impact is that sea levels are rising. At some point, particularly if you’re personally affected by these things, the scientific explanation is not enough. Whether you blame nature or some higher being, to be in awe, or a little scared, or a lot scared at what can happen to you in these events is a good thing, it probably means you’re prepared for them better.

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